We were lucky enough to spend some time in the company of Buggy legend Bruce Meyers at the Volksworld show. In the 50th year of the Beach Buggy, we were keen to find out what it’s like to be the founding father behind this amazing, creative corner of the VW scene. Over to you Megan…
In talking to Bruce Meyers you begin to understand what really makes this 88 year-old ex-marine-come-inventor tick. And, of course what’s behind one of the coolest adventure vehicles ever made – the Meyer’s Manx Dune Buggy; it could be more do to with a little thing called love, than it is about the car itself. Sorry guys!
The first thing Bruce tells me is that he’s a sucker for love. He can’t help it. He’s been married too many times. I asked him to clarify – “too many” came the answer!!
Speaking about how the Meyers Manx Buggy came to be and where he was in his life when it ‘happened’ Bruce explained “I had no idea what I was doing. I was just a young guy with a lot of spirited feelings. I am very passionate. I fall in love too much, I can’t help it! I’m not terribly smart but I’ve got a lot of talent. Did you know there is a big difference? You don’t know what’s right when you’re young. You think you do. You get dragged into a lot of things you think are right but it turns out you were just immature. I was very immature.”
“I wasted a lot of time doing the wrong things about love. You only have one life and you waste a lot of time doing the wrong things. I look back and think, why did I waste so much time, all those years? ”
Bruce talks a lot about Love in our interview, which isn’t at first glance connected to the Beach Buggy, but this story is about emotions, how he has dealt with “ups and downs” and come back full circle into the VW scene; he designed a buggy and the whole world copied it, which he says “made me very, very angry.”
“But in the course of that anger I decided I would get really creative. So I designed the fibreglass hot tub spa. And another thing called the night racer, which is a bed which looks like a little racecar for boys. And I also designed a liner for pickup trucks which was a real monster.“
While he’s a true inventor at heart, it’s taken almost 50 years to come back and revisit his first invention with the same passion that he initially created it with. “I was trying to keep the company together. And as it turns out all those things became hugely successful for other people. I’m the creative guy who didn’t know how to curate after I had created.”
His wife of 33 years points out that he does have a patent on the Meyer’s Manx Dune Buggy, which is now fifty years old.
Bruce’s current pride and joy is a screaming yellow dune buggy. The Kick-Out S.S. which looks similar to the original Meyers Manx is powered by a water-cooled Subaru 2.5-liter four, and is built on top of a VW Beetle chassis. This particular buggy is valued about $35,000, and it will be up for grabs to anyone who wants to buy a ticket through MeyersManx.com when it will be raffled off in July this year. Talking more on the new model, Bruce clarifies for non Surfers “a Kick Out is the maneuver a surfer makes at the end of a ride where he (or she) goes up and over the wave to finish with a bit of style and grace.” Quite an apt name for such a great looking Buggy we think!
We asked, how many variations of the original buggy were there?
“Around the world there is some 300 companies which made some kind of fibreglass dune buggy. They are all iterations of the Manx. I led a parade around the Lamonte Raceway in France back in 1994, with about 200 buggies. And none of them were the same. Every single one of those drivers took my idea and ran with it.”
“My host Jacky Morel (Super VW Magazine) told me, Bruce, you’ve been treated really badly, but what you’ve got to do is change your focus. You keep focusing on all the people who screwed you. You’ve got to stop doing that, because you are only hurting yourself. They don’t care. You’ve got to look for the positives. In every single one of these things you created, there’s a positive. For instance, what’s positive about the dune buggy?”
“Well they stole it.”
“No, Jacky said. Forget the car. Look at the people, the two people riding it are smiling.”
Noticing this was a real changing point for the destiny of the Meyers Beach Buggy.. as Bruce goes on to explain. “I realised I was bringing happiness to people’s lives. And what’s more important than that? Just like the hot tub, the people who get into a hot tub are also just about to hop into the sack, see that’s happiness. And the boy who’s sleeping in his bed is probably dreaming about the race he’s going to win. And the pickup truck is far better off because of this liner.”
“I went away thinking, I’ve got to take the frown off my face and smile. When you frown you chase people away and you become lonely, it’s a downward spiral and it gets worst. When you smile you attract people.”
Bruce continued “And then Jacky said, Bruce, go home and do three things. 1. Start a club. Which I did – The Dune Buggy Club. 2. Make a new Manx of the nineties. Which I did – The Manxter. 3. Write a book. Well the book is half written. I’m a good writer, but it’s nailing me down to do it that’s the hard part.”
We brought our conversation to a close with Bruce’s thoughts on why the Beach Buggy has become such an icon, and what it represents to the fans all over the world.
“Well, when you drive a Porsche, a Jeep or a Corvette, they all come out of factories. When you drive a dune buggy you build it yourself. So the guy driving it is probably the guy who built it, if not he restored it. So you have much more of a personal interest in it. So the dune buggy is the only really personal car you can find. Because it’s built by the guy who’s driving it. There is a much stronger love affair, attachment and sense of pride with the Dune Buggy. And it’s a family affair.”
“So many men have shook my hand and told me that I’ve kept their boy out of trouble. And when I have asked, how did I do that? They say, well I could smell my boy smoking pot in his bedroom, so I went out and bought him a dune buggy kit and an old Volkswagen and we spent the next six months bonding. And now the boy is in love with his car.”
“For me, that’s much better than cars. That’s about family and love! And what I’ve done is brought love to the world, and in return the dune buggy brought me love.”
Big thanks to Megan, who joined us for the Volksworld show, and carried out this fantastic interview. If you would like to read more about Bruce Meyers check out another great article about him over on the Top Gear blog. Main pics courtesy of Car and Driver.